The joys of returning to our photographic roots…
Have any of you considered film photography?
There is something about working with film that is very calming which can center one’s soul allowing you to really connect with your art. For me it was like going home to Mama. The feeling of working with your hands as part of creating your art will make it more involved and enable you to to really influence the hidden nuances in your work. It will add a bit more complexity to your workflow but trust me it is worth the effort. The single largest change is forcing you to slow down in your creative process, it forces you to really consider every part of your workflow. It really is not any more difficult than digital photography, but it is a bit more involved.
Take a really close look at the details in this image, click on it and look at it in the full screen mode. Look at the GEARING on the edge of the wheel. The detail there will take your breath away!
I have way too many film cameras to list them all, some really small like the Olympus XA which is the worlds smallest 35mm rangefinder and a joy to use.
I also have an Olympus RC 35 camera that is another fixed lens rangefinder. It is simple and fun to use and can be found for very little money. I have mine rebuild and given a bright blue suite that suites it quite well!
My last 35mm camera system is a Leica M7 system. It has interchangeable lenses and is one of the best built camera systems that I have. Couple it with the world class Leica lenses and you have an unbeatable 35mm system.
Moving up to Medium Format 120 film systems I have three. I have the Voigtlander Bessa IIIw system that is 6×7 format and the Fuji GF670 camera (also sold under the name of Bessa III) with a longer 85mm lens (left & right). The 670 is my medium format travel camera of choice. Not only is it a functional camera with a built in meter but it is attractive and it always will draw a crowd when I get it out to use! Another nice point to the GF670 is that it folds down on itself to a thin easy to store camera in your bag!
And lastly the Mamaya RZ Pro II SLR ( Right) with interchangeable lenses and a world class metering system. This camera is large and heavy but easy to use and a very powerful camera system! I have a f/4 65mm and f/4 180mm lens for it. I also have both the waist level finder and a metering prism with spot and matrix! Like I said, heavy and big, but I use it for ultra long exposures on the coast with the Fuji Acros 100 film which has almost NO RECIPROCITY failure up to 140 seconds then only 1/2 stop after that! The film base is a little on the thin side but still my film of choice for long exposures.
Moving up to 4×5 Large Format cameras, I have three. first I have a Shen Hao cherry field camera. Functional as it is beautiful. I rarely take it out, rather I am using a Polaroid 900 converted to 4×5 with a Fujinon 150mm lens and a Polaroid 110B camera converted to 4×5 with a Schneider Super Angulon 90mm lens. It is a beauty and very wide!
Yes, as you may have noticed, some of these cameras are quite large. This is due to the negative size. Let me give you some idea as to why digital cameras can never come close to the resolution of film.
Lets start with medium format:
- Medium Format 6×7 format makes an image 2 1/4 inches tall and much wider. Scanned at native resolution of 6400 dpi on an Epson 850 Pro scanner gives me a file resolution of 16452 x 19668 dpi or a print size at 300 dpi of 4.5 feet by 5.3 feet! This is huge.
- Large Format of 4″ x 5 ” scanned at 6400 dpi (native) gives a file size of 29107 x 36070 dpi or a print size of 8 feet x 10 feet! There is not a digital camera system in the world that can come more than a small fraction of this!
Film has turned wildly popular again in the past several years and many of the big film manufacturers have started increasing their film production lines again. This is especially true in the medium format lines (120) and 4×5 large format films! Film can be found in single rolls or in bulk almost everywhere again. The big box companies like B&H, Adorama and many others carry almost every type and format that you could ever want!
Processing in B&W has never been easier at home with eco friendly chemistry with no darkroom needed. Only an initial outlay of around $150 will get you started. Cameras can be found anywhere for next to nothing! You will need:
- Dark Bag, a cloth bag that it light proof with arm sleeves that enable you to put your film, developing tank, reel an lid inside with your arms to move the film into a light tight developing tank!
- Developing Tank, I recommend a stainless steel version.
- Film Reels, I like the Hewes stainless steel ones.
- Developer, comes either in a powder or a Liquid. I like Perceptol and/or Rodinal R09.
- Fixer, to remove un-used silver
- Liquid wetting agent to prevent drops to dry on your negative.
- Clips to hang you film up to dry!
You can scan your film into your computer with a good Epson scanner like the 700, 750, 800 or 850. You can also buy an adapter for your camera allowing you to scan by photograph!
While I work in both color and B&W, digital and film I find time after time I pick up a film system and load it up with a good B&W film. The process of developing your film can really help you connect to your work as well.
I like several films, here they are in order of favor:
- Kodak Tmax 100 in 35, 120 and 4×5, very small grain, good dynamic range easy to process
- Fuji Acros 100 in 35, 120 and 4×5, very small grain, good dynamic range NO RECIPROCITY FAILURE, easy to process
- Rollei IR400 in 35, 120 and 4×5, Infrared or normal B&W, good dynamic range, easy to process
- Rollei Retro 80S in 35 and 120, amazing clarity and sharpness, good dynamic range easy to process
- Eastman XX in 35, motion picture film used in B&W movies of the 50’s, smooth gradient transitions.
As an example here is the top image from last week of the fishing fleet taken on 20 year out of date Polaroid Type 55 monochrome instant film. The camera is also a Polaroid 900 that my daughter sent me years ago from a garage sale that I had converted to 4×5 with a Fujinon 150mm lens. A MOST beautiful camera in a bright new blue suite that is just fun to use. It is both rangefinder and ground glass focusing that forces you to slow down and really consider each and every image you capture!
The Type 55 film, even outdated, works flawlessly and generates amazing images where the edge markings add to the artistic impact of your subject
So what do you think? Are you tempted to try this out? It is easy. For starters, you can look at the continuing education departments at a local college or hight school. Most offer B&W film photography with darkroom work. This will teach you enough to allow you to determine if you would like to further investigate this wonderful medium!
You can also contact me and request info on one of my film workshops held in Pawleys Island SC. I would love to have you and share this amazing link to our past!
Please let me know what you think of this post!
Or… What I Did On My Summer Vacation!
Warning, LONG post…
Travel Photography… Say it, let it roll off your tongue, think about it! I bet that the first thing that comes to mind are images from National Geographic, fine, super saturated color photographs that could take you anywhere in the world by simply looking at them! You know the kind, they enabled you over the years to travel vicarisly around the world just with the magazine and its images!
But is that what travel photography really is?
What is the intent of travel photography to document a place or a trip? Is it designed to tell a story on an individual level or to the masses?
Well for me, it is a combination of the two. Most importantly, the images are to refresh the memories of the trip. But there is a real market out there for well done travel photography whether in print publications, web, advertising or fine art prints. It can be quite profitable if you work at it and can step back and look at your own images in terms of the above markets. Even the housing deceration market has room for this type of photography provided that you can simplify your work to show colors and contrasts over locations.
For this trip, and pretty much all the time when I am shooting digital, I exclusively use the Sony 42 mpix A7rii camera system and the new Sony A6300 for high speed work with Sony G lenses or Sony Zeiss lenses. They are very well suited to this type of photography and give you enough (42 mix) resolution to get amazing images yet still have room to crop!
The drive for this post was a recent two week trip out West with my wife and 7 year old grandson Jordan who I am teaching film photography and darkroom processing to (photographically, I had grand plans for him this trip). Given time I plan on turning him into a photographic GOD for something fun while making sure he is a Rocket Scientist!
We flew into Rapid City, SD and picked up a one way rental car and our first night in a long string of hotels.
Day 1. Rapid City layover and rest.
- Day 2. Pick up rental car and drive to Mt. Rushmore in the morning and then the Devils Tower in the afternoon. Continue on 1/2 way to Codie, WY.
- Day 3. Famous Hot Springs of Thermopolis, Wyoming then an afternoon visit and guided tour to the most successful dinosaur dig on our continent.
- Day 4. Codie WY for several stops including the famous old west town and the Codie Rodio.
- Day 5-7. Yellowstone for 3 days in a park lodge.
- Day 8. Leave Yellowstone, drive thru and stop along the way in the Tetons finishing in Jackson WY.
- Day 9. Drive just north of Salt Lake City in the town of Herbor for a 3 hour train ride around the valley.
- Day 10-12. Drive to Moab for 3 nights and visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks with extra boat and jeep rides thru the park as well as Dead Horse Point State Park.
- Day 13. Early morning drive to Bryce National park for 2 days of Bryce National Par
- Day 14. Drive to Salt Lake for flight home on day 15.
So as you can see there was a well thought out family plan for travel and location visits! But, I also had a plan, my photographic plan!
So lets talk first about my TRAVEL photographic equipment plan. I wanted to travel light (yea right). No backpack, rather a small rolling camera case that would fit into the over head of a small commuter plane so that I would not have to check it. I would not have room for a film camera… Dang!
So here is what I brought along:
- Sony A7rii camera body
- Sony a6300 camera body for Jordan
- Sony 24-240mm one lens does it all for Jordan
- Sony 24-70 Zeiss f/4
- Sony 70-200 G f/4
- Tamron 150-600 for those exotic animals I expected to see
- And yes… A Olympus XA 35mm film camera (but it is the worlds smallest rangefinder) with 6 rolls of Tmax 100
- Filters, ND for long water falls and polarizers for all of the rest in 67mm and 72mm.
- Batteries an chargers (both cameras used the same)
This was a good plan (or so I thought) until our very first stop at Mt. Rushmore where Jordan informed me that the 24-240 was too long and heavy. Oh well, I took that and gave him the 24-70.
RULE ONE: No camera plan survives first contact with a 7 year old!
Ok, so at least the part of the photographic plan of me being able to NOT check my camera equipment worked! (I did put all of my insulin and supplies in the camera case just to prove my need to have the case with me but did not need it).
RULE TWO: A super zoom really works best when you have to carry lots of glass around while traveling. See Rule One, Jordan did me a favor here!
Yes, I know that one would not normally trade a light 24-70 Sony/Zeiss f/4 lens for a 24-240 f/3.5-5.6 Sony super zoom but I have to be honest, I was VERY impressed with the super zoom! It was not really that much heaver but it was longer. I NEVER put on the 24-70 after that.
Things to look for on a cross country western trip:
- Landscapes & Vistas
- Unique rock formations
- Wild colors
- Unique photographic visions
Querimony: To Questionably Moan & Complain!
I expected great things of Yellowstone and that showed in the number of days there as well as staying in the park. Yellowstone is HUGE, so much so that you have to allow for HOURS of driving time from location to location. The roads are all good, 2 lanes with adequate pull offs. BUT having said that there are rules of behavior in pulling off and rules for how you treat the wildlife. I cannot tell you how many people (especially foreign visitors) who would jump out of the car (still in the road) and run off into the fields right up to the wildlife. To say that this is bad behavior is an understatement. It for one, keeps others from being able to photograph the wildlife and two puts the peoples lives in grave danger that approach the wildlife! Yet this happened almost every time wildlife was near the road. The park rangers had simply given up on trying to educate people who would not listen. They spend most of their time dealing with the MANY dreadful traffic accidents that happened every day. The traffic jams were terrible whenever an animal was near. Sometimes this was due to the animal being on the road but most of the time it was because people parked right in the middle of the road who left their cars.
I am going to share a few of my favorite images from Yellowstone with you. It is a good cross section of what you can expect to see while visiting!
I would travel again to Yellowstone but in the spring or fall in order to see more of the wildlife there. I realize that in the heat of August even the animals would move to higher locations in order to reduce the heat. The only wildlife I really saw in abundance on this trip were Buffalo, Elk and Antelope.
Moab, Arches & Canyonlands National ParksThe Moab area offered some of the most amazing locations of our trip. I had thought that nothing could beat Yellowstone, but Moab came very close. There are 3 offerings here, the Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and the Dead Horse Point State Park. ALL three are must see locations. For me Arches was the best, but honestly, we spent time exploring all three in detail (well sort walk detail). We also paid extra for a boat trip on the Colorado River thru Canyonlands for a low view and a back country jeep tour to see area and arches not available to the general public in Arches! If you get here I advise that you do both side trips.
So…. I had this vision stuck in my head of a parked line of freight train box cars parked in the high desert with a mesa behind them. I found myself looking to the sides of the car as we traveled endless miles through Wyoming and Utah. Finally my wife asked me what I was looking for and when I told her she made a point to help me look and stop me when we came upon them. I know that out West there are ultra long stretched of road. Most are 4 lanes with lots of traffic. If you see that special scene make sure that you safely stop so as not to irritate the 7 year old in the back seat, pull safely off to the side of the road as you watch for the perfect compositional setup and get out and shoot it! DO IT!
RULE THREE: There are NO GO BACKS! If you see a subject or scene on the side of the road immediately stop and shoot it!
Bryce National Park
To say that Bryce National Park is anything less that amazing is an understatement. It was right up there with Arches and Yellowstone in amazing views, colors and the wow factor! This is the location that I would choose to visit again to try some different styles of photography. The colors of the Hodoos are simply amazing and full of wild colors and contrasts.
RULE FOUR: Revisit those scenes and compositions as many times a possible!
While in Arches, my 7 year old grandson decided that he had enough nature and vistas after driving Arches all day long. I took them (at my wife insistence) back to the hotel and went back out to Arches and drove it again in different light conditions and the 2nd time there were clouds in the sky. This made for much better images that I would not have gotten if I did not go back out again!
Final thoughts on what makes travel photography great!
Now as you have seen here, I presented this trip as a travel log. Attempting to document the many wonders of the high plains in the west. For images that have the possibility of selling you need to:
- Pay more attention to your editing, scene selection and composition.
- You must re-visit local scenes several times in order to get the best light and clouds.
- You MUST shoot with your best equipment in order to produce high resolution images for future publication.
- In your post processing you must choose only your best images and throw the non used images out.
- Be your WORST critique and select only what you would consider to be world class images. Case in point, the image above of the Court House Rocks in Arches. Yes it is a nice image but the lack of clouds in the sky reduce its impact to the point of it being a weak image!
This type of travel photography is more difficult that personal travel images traditionally done by the millions of photographers who roam the country. These types of images are still travel photography but basically serve to show and remember your great trips! They will include more family member in the scenes, less care about the total compositional elements because those are simply not as important to the memory of the trip and locations! They are just as important, but will not generally generate income from sales and publication.
Colophon: Very Important Lessons Learned:
- NEVER, and I do mean NEVER plan a 14 day photographic trip with a 7 year old and expect him to be excited beyond the first week. I would have been better off leaving the A6300 and 24-70 f/4 at home thus lightening my load and giving him MY camera when he desired to take a photograph!
- Make SURE that you explain to the said 7 year old that “NO! There are places that not only will there be no TV but also no internet! (I was able to get around this most of the time with my iPhone as a hot spot for his iPad!)
- Build in several fun days (as viewed by a 7 year old) that includes things like movies, water parks and so on! This is a small price to pay for 7 year old mental health and will refresh his young mind and keep it open for those wonderful scenes you travel to!
- How can you get those great travel shots when your walking is limited? As a cranky 63 year old man, make sure that you plan photographic stops THAT YOU CAN DRIVE TO! We (actually my thoughtful wife) did this ahead of time thus insuring my mental health and happiness at the stops we made!
- Take the time to occasionally stop at nice restaurants that actually serve wine and beer (this will assist with the mental healty of said wife!) Happy marriages are NOT built and fast food places in a rush!
- If you desire to shoot medium format film, you damn well better plan on space for the camera and film! Regrets upon your return will leave a sour taste in your mouth!
- Be flexible, very flexible. This will leave you happy in the hotel at night!
- Take your pain drugs! (See #7)
- If you see a photo subject on the side of the road STOP! There are no go backs! (see RULE THREE about this very thing and really your wife know this and will support your urges to stop in the middle of nowhere!
- Wildlife… What wildlife? How did I miss all the great shots of wolves, coyotes, and bears? I was in Yellowstone for heavens sake! The lesson here is to make sure you check the season for high animal activity. I have listened to my photographer Son talk about so much wildlife in Yellowstone that it was not safe to drive! I guess he should have mentioned when he was there! Oh well. I AM happy with what I actually did see (Buffalo, Antelopes, Elk and Prairie Dogs)
- Stop at EVERY overlook in every park. You will be happier having done so (and vicariously so will your wife). You will hate yourself when you return home only to have a photographer friend tell you that the one overlook you skipped was the only one you should have stopped at!
- If you find a scene that is magical for you revisit at a different time of day. This is VERY IMPORTANT and promote photographic health for those who have heeded these magic words.
- Would I do it all over again with a 7 year old? YOU BET!! But I would plan differently. If I take any of my grandkids I need to remember that it is their vacation as well. This means that you build in days doing fun stuff for their age also!
Please let me know what you think of this long post! I welcome all feedback.
Smaller, Faster and able to leap over tall buildings!
Yes, you are correct, I shoot with the Sony A7rii 42 mega pixel full frame mirrorless camera! What you cry am I doing with the A6300 which is only 24 mega pixel and an APS-C sensor? Well friends, the answer to that is simple, well perhaps not… I envision the A6300 as a 720nm Infrared camera.
But it has several very interesting and powerful functions that have engaged my curiosity. Those are:
- 11 fps shooting speed.
- Faster and more accurate focus than the A7rii
- More focus and metering points.
- Half the weight of the A7rii
- Much brighter and accurate focus peaking system.
- Ability to work macro at 1:1 with live view and not have an over pixelated display.
- The ability to turn my 600mm lens into a 900mm lens!
The 4 test images I took today were shot hand held at 1/250s and in RAW with Zone Focusing. I also had the LIVE VEIW DISPLAY: Setting Effect: ON. This enabled the camera to simulate the exposure effects during composition to give me an idea of what I am actually seeing.
The A6300 is a TINY camera system. It is so light (even with a L Bracket installed) that I had to be very careful when carrying it around. I worried over dropping it and not knowing!
The camera does NOT have a built in Stabilizing system, rather it relies on the fact that most Sony lenses have that built in. I has 3 custom WB memories for those of you who are considering the camera for Infrared and it also has 2 custom setup memories that I have found to be very helpful with my A7rii camera!
I found the camera very easy to use and control. I setup all of the custom functions and buttons to make my life easier when shooting it.
As I said, this camera was meant to be converted by http://www.kolarivision.com into a 720nm infrared system and it may actually meet that end, but I really like the ability of the APS system to give me 900mm from a 600mm lens!
Here is the color version (with polarizer) of the image above. The colors are nicely saturated and the overall image is sharp and offers enough detail and sharpness to draw the viewer into the image!
Here is another view of the salt marsh. I have to say that the camera with the 24-70 Zeiss lens is easy to hold and control. The camera control buttons are easy to reach and control without using them by accident.
Lastly, a B&W conversion of the same image.
I am really excited with the functionality of this little system. I am pleased with the results and will use it for a few months as a color system for my long lens. Ultimately it will be converted to IR but for now I will play with it.
There are several issues with its firmware (same as when the A7rii came out). Overheating during hight speed continuous shots is the big one but Sony assures me that a fix is in work as it was when the A7rii camera came out!
I will be experimenting with the system for a few months and see what it can offer me in terms of images and use. Later this week it is going to the beach for some ultra long exposures to see if it has any body light leaks!
What do your think?
Have a plan to work different compositions with in your scene!
You know how it is when you walk up to a scene and notice it for the very first time? Usually we are amazed at what we have discovered! We setup take the image and walk away congratulating ourselves as to the amazing luck at finding such a perfect subject!
But wait! You have all heard that you should work a scene, right? Just look at all of the cool parts that make up the whole. I am also sure that you have heard the phrase, “WORK THE SCENE”! Well that actually means what it says. Start wide and work in and around getting closer and more details! When you are as close as you can stand, then work your way back out again!
This is powerful advice…
This is also the secret of all those world class images you see posted or published around the world. Do you actually think that the professional photographer working and Nat Geo only took the one image? Really??? They are just like the rest of us, a 30% keep rate and a 90% garbage rate!
So, knowing that it only make sense to take the time to work the scene. Looking at the top image you see that I could the shrimp boat Stormy Seas with a long liner Charlotte Marie under the strong clouds of tropical storm Bonnie. The scene is full of mood, color and contrasts. I was specifically looking to work the shrimper so I did not pay any attention the the long liner. Here they are a dime a dozen but there are likely a lot of detail shots there also…
So as you can see, I have now walked around to the dock the shrimper is on and take a bow shot composing to keep the other boats, docks and other muck out of the image. I still set it up to get the great storm clouds. A much better shot than the first, no?
Next I move further in, closer to the bow, looking at the painted boat name and the great structure and contrasts hidden the the hull of the boat. As I stand here I think to myself that having the anchor cut off is a bit distracting but then decide that it adds a hint, or suggesting more out of scene that adds a bit is mystery to the image. Again, in post, I have added a bit of mood to the clouds also!
Now I am walking down the boats side, paying attention to the colors and patterns around the wheel house. There is a lot here and the images continue to improve. Having the walkway moving up and away from me give a sense of infinity and curiosity as to what is at the bow above!
Moving further back towards the boat’s stern (back for you folks who live in Idaho!) I come upon the life ring with assorted fishing accessories hanging from it. This scene is the most promising so far. Look at the textures in the wall of the wheel house, the deep rich red tones and the crisp writing of the boats name! It gives me shivers overtime I look at it!
But wait! Just below the life ring hanging on the gunnels of the boat is a coil of heavily textured rope. The rusty bold and chipped and rotting rail add so much texture, mood and stories that I am drawn to create an image just of this one detail!
This is exactly what will happen if you take the time to explore your scene totally working inwards getting more and more details as you go! If the scene is worthy of taking, it demands that you explore it in great depth and detail. Give it the time to do a good job and document all of it’s glory!
Do not forget to work in B&W as well, each and every image you take might have magic wonder hidden within its detail if you look at in in monochrome! Look closely at the image above. The hull has MUCH MORE DETAIL in its structure than the one in color did yet they are the same exposure! The clouds have more depth. Monochrome images discard the distractions caused by color… But that is the subject for another post….
Remember, this has NOTHING to do with the type of scene you shoot, nature, landscape or shrimpers, it is all the same!
What do you think?